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Nats, DirecTV Close to Announcing Deal

Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page D08

DirecTV is ready to flip the switch and air Washington Nationals games on Channel 626, but as of last night the satellite broadcaster had yet to strike a deal with the Baltimore Orioles, who control the Nationals' television territory.

"We hope to be able to announce a deal imminently," said Vince Wladika, spokesman for Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), which is the Orioles' broadcasting arm that produces the Nationals games.

A deal has been near for weeks, and the sides were so close on Tuesday night that DirecTV flagged that night's Nationals-Florida Marlins game in its television listings. The sides are still haggling over contract language, sources said.

"We are working toward a deal, but we do not have a deal tonight," DirecTV spokesman Bob Marsucci said.

A DirecTV deal would double the number of Nationals games televised throughout the region to more than 140 and expand the team's potential audience by several hundred thousand households.

The Nationals games so far this season have been aired on WDCA-20 (UPN), which has plans to broadcast 76 games. More important, DirecTV would lift Nationals games beyond traditional, over-the-air broadcasts and broaden its brand recognition and market penetration.

-- Thomas Heath

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